Virtually 5 years in the past, in December 2016, The Gambia introduced authoritarian President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year reign to an finish by means of a democratic election. Since then, regardless of going through quite a few obstacles and challenges, the West African nation has managed to strengthen its democracy and widen its political house considerably. Nevertheless, The Gambia’s democratic transition will face its hardest take a look at thus far on December 4, when the nation holds its first presidential and parliamentary elections for the reason that departure of Jammeh.
When present President Adama Barrow got here to energy, he had promised that he would name for brand spanking new elections after three years. Nevertheless, he rescinded that promise in 2019, and introduced that he intends to serve a full five-year time period as prescribed within the structure. This led to minor protests, however didn’t cease Barrow from taking the mandatory steps to consolidate his energy.
In December 2019, Barrow established the Nationwide Folks’s Social gathering (NPP) as a car to hunt a second time period within the upcoming election. Since then, the brand new get together has managed to garner vital standard help and elevated Barrow’s probabilities of a second time period.
Final month, Barrow made one final transfer to broaden his help base earlier than the essential election and introduced an alliance between his NPP and Yahya Jammeh’s APRC.
The tactical alliance between the 2 events has ruffled some feathers within the nation. Many see the transfer as an indication of Barrow’s incapacity to go away Jammeh’s repressive legacy behind and open a brand new democratic chapter in Gambian politics. Furthermore, Gambians who had been victimised by Jammeh and his supporters over the past 20 years perceived the transfer as a stab within the again and a denial of their struggling.
The NPP-APRC alliance additionally offers rise to fears that Jammeh, who has been in exile in Equatorial Guinea since January 2017, could quickly return to the nation and reinsert himself in Gambian politics. The specifics of the deal between the NPP and APRC haven’t been made public, however many suspect Barrow has agreed to grant Jammeh amnesty for the crimes he dedicated throughout his reign in return for political help. There are comprehensible fears that such an settlement would hinder The Gambia’s efforts for democratisation and transactional justice.
Barrow’s obvious need to carry on to energy at any price, the controversial NPP-APRC alliance and Jammeh’s attainable return to the political area, nevertheless, should not the one challenges going through The Gambia’s democratic transition forward of the December 4 election.
Up to now 5 years, The Gambia made vital progress by way of increasing political illustration. As we speak, 18 registered political events are competing for the help of simply over 1,000,000 eligible voters within the nation. However this crowded electoral market just isn’t a internet optimistic for Gambian democracy. These events have conflicting agendas and a few should not hesitating to gasoline divisions and conflicts in an effort to broaden their help base.
Moreover, the excessive variety of political events taking part within the election, coupled with The Gambia’s first-past-the-post electoral system, signifies that a candidate with simply 100,000 votes can grow to be the nation’s subsequent president. It is a main menace to the nation’s stability, because it paves the way in which for shedding candidates to declare the elections illegitimate, demand reruns and even set off civil unrest.
One other situation that hinders The Gambia’s democratic transition forward of the election is the continuing disenfranchisement of the Gambian diaspora. Whereas their actual quantity just isn’t identified, between 140,000 to 200,000 Gambians are estimated to be at the moment dwelling outdoors the nation. The Gambian diaspora performed an necessary position in fuelling the opposition motion that ultimately introduced Jammeh’s reign to an finish. In response, the Barrow administration tried to offer them a say within the nation’s electoral politics by means of a brand new structure. However when the nationwide meeting rejected the draft structure in 2020, the diaspora’s dream of taking part within the 2021 election was shattered. As we speak, within the eyes of many, the upcoming election goes to be lower than democratic, as a big proportion of Gambians won’t have a say in who will lead their nation for the subsequent 5 years.
The Gambia has come a great distance for the reason that finish of Jammeh’s reign of concern and intimidation. Regardless of the various difficulties the nation has confronted for the reason that final election, its youthful and dynamic inhabitants is wanting on the future with hope and positivity. This, nevertheless, doesn’t imply its democratic transition is full. The December 4 election would be the most consequential within the nation’s historical past and decide whether or not The Gambia will handle to stay on the trail to democracy.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.